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Glasgow Scotland in chaos ahead of UN climate summit with strikes & room shortages

Net Zero Samizdat

The world’s best climate & energy bulletin

26 October 2021

1) Glasgow in chaos ahead of COP26 with strikes and room shortages

Guido Fawkes, 26 October 2021

2) Biden’s climate ambitions die in the Senate
The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 2021

3) The Biden administration backtracks on its campaign against oil and gas
Seeking Alpha, 25 October 2021

4) Rich nations fail to meet $100 billion climate-funding pledge in blow to COP26
The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 2021

5) COP26: What are China’s real intentions?
Net Zero Watch Webinar 

6) White House report on climate, migration opens door to refugee status for ‘environmental defenders’
Fox News, 23 October 2021

7) In advance of climate summit, tension among Biden aides on China policy
The Washington Post, 25 October 2021

8) China’s power crisis may cast a shadow over its new climate commitments expected to be announced at COP26 in Glasgow
South China Morning Post, 25 October 2021

9) Iain Duncan Smith: Our commitment to Net Zero has become quasi-religious. It needs to be scrutinised properly
The Daily Telegraph, 25 October 2021
10) Energy crisis divides European nations before emergency meeting
Bloomberg, 25 October 2021
11) And finally: Boris Johnson jokes about ‘feeding humans to animals’  to baffled children
Daily Mail, 25 October 2021

1) Glasgow in chaos ahead of COP26 with strikes and room shortages
Guido Fawkes, 26 October 2021

COP26 starts this Sunday, so you’d think the SNP-led city council is now in the final stages of preparing Glasgow for a successful summit and showing off the city’s best features. Not so. Instead, here’s a rundown of just how shambolic things are looking with just days to go…

This morning, rail and council workers confirmed they’ll be taking strike action during the summit, with ScotRail striking from the second day of the conference. Unless ScotRail’s pay rise demands are met by tomorrow, the travel infrastructure for thousands of COP attendees will be in total chaos. Binmen are also off, so the city streets will be piled high with weeks’ worth of rubbish just as delegates arrive.

If and when the rail strikes go ahead, travelling by car won’t be much use either: major roads into Glasgow, including the Clydeside Expressway and parts of the M8, will be closed from this week onwards, so those who’ve booked accommodation in Edinburgh will face “serious problems” with enormous Uber fares and journey times. Speaking of accommodation…

Today MPs have been warned of an “accommodation crisis” amongst attendees, with as many as 3000 people still without room bookings, and emergency accommodation now being provided in gyms and community centres. Despite being in the calendar for years, the government’s accommodation provider only managed to book out “around a third” of the Glasgow area’s hotel rooms.

There’s also huge pressure on local hospitals. Outpatient appointments at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have already been cancelled as a result of the travel disruption, with some patients even being relocated to other hospitals – all as a direct result of COP. A planned climate march of around 100,000 people hasn’t helped, either. That same hospital is also trying to find additional A&E staff to cover the demonstrations…

All this for a summit which won’t even feature the leaders of some of the world’s biggest emitters. No wonder Boris is “very worried“. Thankfully, the SNP’s Glasgow Council leader put fears to rest by insisting the city was ready…”with caveats“. This is the same person who yesterday blamed Glasgow’s rat infestation on Margaret Thatcher

2) Biden’s climate ambitions die in the Senate
The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 2021

Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass a multitrillion-dollar spending bill, which includes a major piece of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda. But in the face of opposition from a single senator, the climate provision is dead. WSJ’s Siobhan Hughes explains where this leaves the U.S. in its fight against climate change.

Listen to the WSJ podcast here

3) The Biden administration backtracks on its campaign against oil and gas
Seeking Alpha, 25 October 2021

The Biden administration’s climate agenda has reached a crossroads. After nine months of trying to make life difficult for the oil-and-gas industry, the administration has turned to it for help in addressing the energy challenges that confront the nation.

Late last week, the administration was reported to be in discussions with oil and gas executives, presumably to assure that the U.S. has adequate supply for the approaching winter. On the midstream front, the administration is searching for ways to improve energy “logistics.”

It shouldn’t take the president and his National Security Council long to recognize that pipelines are the only feasible answer on the scale required for the U.S. economy.

The new tack by the administration was born of political necessity, not a change of heart toward oil and gas.
In fact, the administration had to exhaust the alternatives available to it before caving to the reality that the industry it vilified is needed to bolster its election prospects amid falling approval ratings.

Over the past few weeks, the administration requested more oil from OPEC. It suggested tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It even went so far as threatening to ban U.S. crude oil exports, apparently failing to recognize that such a move would precipitate a domestic energy catastrophe.

The Key Principle

The significance of the Biden administration’s pivot isn’t limited to practical issues in the here-and-now. Even more importantly, it’s hammering home a central principle of modern political economy, namely, that when climate policies cause adverse economic outcomes, they are scaled back to preserve economic wellbeing.

The principle can be seen today anywhere there’s an energy crisis. For instance, it has taken effect in both China and throughout Europe.

As the Biden administration’s self-preservation instincts kick in, the principle has become operative in the U.S. At the moment, U.S. consumers are being pinched by the near doubling of domestic oil and gas prices over the past year and the ensuing increase in inflation. They are also reading headlines about global energy crises and are concerned that sooner or later it may arrive in the U.S.

If the administration wishes to forestall its falling approval ratings, it has to be seen as supporting consumers’ economic wellbeing. And if an energy crisis is in the offing, the administration’s only recourse for staving it off is to partner with the domestic oil-and-gas industry.

To fully appreciate the force of this principle, it must be viewed in the context of what the administration has done to impede domestic oil-and-gas industry activity. The following is a partial list of measures taken over the past ten months.

On President Biden’s first day of office in January, he revoked the permit granted to TransCanada that is necessary to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, which was planned to bring 800,000 bpd of Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast refinery and export complex.

One week later the President issued an executive order placing a moratorium on oil and gas leases on federal land. While a federal judge later blocked the moratorium, the administration instead slow-walked the issuance of new permits, which have fallen by more than 75% from year-ago levels.

Despite the oil and gas industry’s progress on reducing methane flaring – which we witness every quarter on midstream earnings conference calls – President Biden signed a Congressional resolution tightening restrictions on methane leaks from fossil fuel production and is likely to introduce additional regulations through the EPA that will make production more expensive. The regulations may be prohibitively expensive for smaller independent operators in Colorado and New Mexico. The new regulations would also apply to oil and gas infrastructure.

The administration is increasing financial regulation on the oil and gas industry. Based on the theory that climate change is a financial risk, the President passed an “Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk.” The order instructs federal bureaucracies to incorporate climate-related financial risk into their regulatory and supervisory activities, mitigate climate-related financial risks, and take actions to “protect the life savings and pensions of United States workers and families from the threats of climate-related financial risk.” It also directs federal agencies to weigh climate-change financial risk in how they provision credit through grants and loans.

The FERC is taking climate into account in the agency’s rulemaking and environmental reviews. The agency is being urged by other governmental agencies to incorporate the cost of carbon in its environmental reviews. The FERC is reportedly considering requiring an environmental impact study before approving even the smallest infrastructure upgrades.

The administration is trying to pass its “Made in America Tax Plan” in the latest reconciliation bill. The plan is punitive to oil and gas companies. It seeks to eliminate expensing of most new well costs and the depletion allowance, while also restoring taxes levied by the EPA.

The fact that after all this the administration is forced to go hat in hand to the industry for help in mitigating an energy crisis shows the extraordinary extent to which economic wellbeing trumps the climate agenda.

Oil and Natural Gas are Here to Stay

The problem the administration faces is that oil and gas demand continues to increase while climate policy has stymied the supply system. Moreover, demand is likely to continue increasing over the next few years and for many years thereafter. The transition to other forms of energy will be measured in decades, similar to previous transitions, as oil and gas demand continues to grow with the population and economy, even as its share of the energy mix shrinks.

The physical and economic properties of oil and natural gas – including their abundance, energy density, portability, and low cost – are simply too valuable to be quickly pushed aside by other energy sources that lack them. Meanwhile, oil-and-gas alternatives have their own issues. Solar is reaching the physical limit to its efficiency.

There is only so much wind and it is intermittent. Batteries will be constrained by commodity economics until some major breakthrough. Converting to hydrogen will take decades.

As long as the powers that be are incentivized to maintain the modern standard of living by outcomes at the ballot box, they will be incapable of weaning the economy off fossil fuels by government decree as rapidly as they hope. In a more gradual, market-based transition, the newly emerging energy sources are likely to complement oil and gas as opposed to outright supplanting them.

Full post

4) Rich nations fail to meet $100 billion climate-funding pledge in blow to COP26
The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 2021

Wealthy governments won’t fulfill a pledge to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries fight climate change until at least 2023, according to a new report from climate negotiators, a setback that comes just days before a closely watched United Nations climate summit starts in Scotland.

The pledge was a key part of the 2015 Paris climate accord, helping to persuade developing nations to sign the deal and commit to limit their own emissions. Rich nations said they would funnel $100 billion a year from 2020 to 2025 to poorer countries to help them transition to greener energy and adapt to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and drought.

The report, published Monday by the U.K., which is hosting the COP26 summit in Glasgow that begins Sunday, said that donor nations likely fell around $20 billion short of hitting the target in 2020, largely due to a shortfall of private financing. The report said that modeling by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of wealthy countries, showed the $100 billion target could be achieved by 2023.

The shortfall is raising tensions between developed and developing nations as they plan to meet to debate how to keep the climate targets of the Paris agreement within reach.

Full story

5) COP26: What are China’s real intentions?
Net Zero Watch Webinar

China has been keen to emphasise its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and has announced a target to achieve a 65% reduction in the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030.

However, some analysts have suggested that all is not as it seems. While Xi Jinping has been keen to talk up China’s green credentials, he has been happy to allow the construction of a spate of new coal power stations. He has also been clear that China will not allow itself to be dictated to by the West, and has refused to attend COP26 in person.

What does China really want?

Joining Net Zero Watch’s Harry Wilkinson to discuss this vital topic are Prof Jun Arima, David Rose, Prof Gwythian Prins and Patricia Adams.

The webinar is being held on 28 October via Zoom, please register here

6) White House report on climate, migration opens door to refugee status for ‘environmental defenders’
Fox News, 23 October 2021

White House report says there is ‘interplay between climate change and various aspects of eligibility for refugee status’

A new White House report on the alleged links between climate change and migration opened the door to potentially giving refugee status to those who are classed as “climate activists” or “environmental defenders.”

The “Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration” includes claims that “there is an interplay between climate change and various aspects of eligibility for refugee status.”

It goes on to state that if a government that denies “relief from the impact of climate change to specific individuals who share a protected characteristic in a manner and to a degree amounting to persecution” then that could open such people to refugee status.

It also states that “adverse impacts of climate change” could affect whether someone has a viable relocation alternative within their own country.

“Climate activists, or environmental defenders, persecuted for speaking out on government inaction on climate change may also have a plausible claim to refugee status,” the document says.

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7) In advance of climate summit, tension among Biden aides on China policy
The Washington Post, 25 October 2021

In the early summer, with less than five months to go before a critical United Nations climate conference in Scotland, John F. Kerry told President Biden that he wouldn’t achieve his goal of tackling climate change, a key administration priority, unless the U.S.-China relationship improved.

Kerry, a former secretary of state and Biden’s envoy for climate, had been traveling the globe trying to secure commitments on carbon-emission reductions among allies and adversaries in the hope of keeping global temperature increases at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), a level that scientists say could stave off the worst effects of climate change.

But his discussions with Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua were lagging as Beijing insisted that cooperation on climate would not commence amid strained relations over human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan, trade and a range of other issues.

Now, with less than a week before leaders of nearly 200 countries arrive in Glasgow for the U.N. summit known as COP26, expectations for a major breakthrough are dim: Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend in person, and Washington and Beijing face domestic political constraints on their international climate ambitions.

The desire to make progress on climate change has led to tensions among Biden’s top aides over how to manage Washington’s competing priorities with Beijing.

Kerry has repeatedly pushed for direct diplomacy between Biden and Xi, believing that an improved bilateral relationship can produce better outcomes in Scotland. White House aides, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, are more skeptical that the United States alone can coax China into reducing emissions. Just as Washington would be averse to overhauling its energy policies on the basis of foreign pressure, so too would Beijing.

“They’re going to make their decisions based on their national interest,” said a senior administration official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The standoff with China, the world’s largest carbon emitter and home to half the world’s coal-fired power plants, has presented a significant challenge for the Biden administration, which has identified both climate change as an “existential threat” and China as “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.”

The United States is pressing China to set more ambitious commitments for when it will peak its carbon emissions and offer specifics about Xi’s promise to stop financing coal-fired power plants abroad. Absent those actions, global temperature increases are expected to surpass 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) in the coming years, resulting in a rise of extreme weather events, hurricanes, droughts, forest fires, loss of biodiversity, and food and water scarcity.

As it presses its climate initiatives, the Biden administration is also demanding that Beijing stop threatening Taiwan, cease its crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong, end its campaign of mass detention and sterilization of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and address a range of other grievances related to trade and cybersecurity.

Managing these priorities is Sullivan, who has ruled out accommodating China to make gains on climate.

“We are not in the business of trading cooperation with China on climate change as a favor that Beijing is doing for the United States,” Sullivan said at a security conference this spring, a message he repeated in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Zurich earlier this month.

The hard line has pleased the East Asia divisions at the State Department and Pentagon as well as China hawks on Capitol Hill who have cheered Biden’s continuation of Trump-era tariffs, imposition of new sanctions on Beijing and use of the word “genocide” to describe Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang.

But the tensions between the two nations have worried liberal lawmakers and climate activists concerned that poor relations between the world’s two biggest polluters will translate into an unproductive climate conference at a time of existential peril.

“U.S. collaboration with China on climate is fundamental due to China’s major role in emitting carbon dioxide but also as a leading producer of the green technologies required for decarbonization,” said a draft of a letter to Biden that Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), chair of the Natural Resources Committee, and Judy Chu (Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, are organizing. “Simply put, there is no conceivable way to address the climate crisis without substantially strengthening communication and collaboration between our nations.”

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8) China’s power crisis may cast a shadow over its new climate commitments expected to be announced at COP26 in Glasgow
South China Morning Post, 25 October 2021

China’s energy crisis may invite some resistance from sceptical delegates at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26)

China is still on track to meet its 2025 goal of peak coal consumption even after missing emissions targets in the first half of 2021 and policy missteps that resulted in a severe power supply crunch, according to analysts.
But the power crisis may invite some resistance from sceptical delegates at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) if, as many expect, Beijing commits to accelerating its environmental efforts at the event in Glasgow.

“If a result of these power shortages in 2021 is that the 2025 coal peak date is pushed back a year or two, that would be a serious problem, but we haven’t seen any indication that this is the plan,” said David Fishman, a manager at power sector consultancy The Lantau Group.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, to hitting peak coal consumption in four years’ time to support its 2060 carbon neutrality goal. He announced plans to stop building overseas coal power plants last month, and many observers expect China to make at least one more major environmental announcement during COP26.

But the recent power crisis that started in September and widened to more than half of China’s provinces including manufacturing hubs Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Guangdong has cast a shadow over the country’s economic growth and decarbonisation path. Some provincial governments told factories to limit their power usage, curb output or even halt production until further notice, and some regions in northeast China even experienced residential power cuts.

The crisis might cast a shadow over China’s performance at COP26, raising uncomfortable questions if China does deepen its decarbonisation commitments at the event, according to Li Shuo, a global policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia.

“If China wants to enhance its [commitments], there will definitely be someone bringing up the power crisis in northeast China and saying the country should prioritise coal supply,” said Li. “The power crisis happened at a time China is about to make a major climate decision and has definitely made the situation more complicated.”

The main cause of the power crisis – the country’s worst in decades – has been a shortage of coal that resulted from its skyrocketing price in the wake of coronavirus, and China’s regulated on-grid tariffs that have prompted power generators to reduce output in order to stem losses.

To alleviate the problem, the government has ordered power companies to secure energy supplies “at all costs”, called on coal miners to boost production and allowed a small increase in imports of Australian coal. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also announced a series of measures to support coal production this month, including an acceleration in the construction of new mines and phased tax deferrals for coal-fired power plants.

As coal-fired power production is ramped up aggressively to meet demand, some analysts are concerned that the measures will mean China having to sacrifice its environmental progress to ensure energy security, at least in the short term.

“Like other markets in Asia and Europe, China must perform a balancing act between the immediate need to keep the lights on – via more coal – and showing its commitment to increasingly ambitious decarbonisation targets,” said Gavin Thompson, Asia-Pacific vice-chair of resource consultancy Wood Mackenzie in a newsletter earlier this month.

“But the short-term reality is that China and many others have little choice but to increase coal consumption to meet power demand.”

The large number of post-Covid economic stimulus measures passed in China last year based on the buildout of infrastructure projects that consume a lot of steel and cement, along with a strong residential property market, put a great deal of strain on the supply of carbon-intensive commodities and increase the temptation to go back to coal, according to Danny Huang, director and China commodities lead analyst at S&P Global Ratings.

“The legacy from Covid and the power shortage is that there will be expanded coal power and industrial capacity that will be there and will take time to take offline,” said Huang during a webinar earlier this month.

“So in terms of reaching those [energy and emission] targets, the progress will be stalled by the need to return to more coal usage. There is a likelihood that whenever there is an unexpected event, there is always a temptation to go back to coal power generation, as it has played out in this case.”

Wood Mackenzie expects supply of thermal coal to remain tight through the upcoming winter and even into 2022. Citi Research believes China’s energy supply crunch will persist into the winter, forcing the government to mandate a 12 per cent cut in industrial power use in the fourth quarter in order to secure basic winter coal burn.

Concerns about higher emissions have been raised further by local news reports that some factories are using less efficient and more emission-prone diesel generators to keep production going before the coal and power shortages are fixed.

Still, analysts think China will remain on track to meet its coal targets.

“I haven’t seen any official statements or convincing arguments that the current power shortages and the resultant measures to alleviate the shortages will result in the 2025 target being delayed or the objective being missed,” said Fishman.

He believes an accelerated reduction of coal use is likely to be among China’s new commitments to COP26.

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9) Iain Duncan Smith: Our commitment to Net Zero has become quasi-religious. It needs to be scrutinised properly
The Daily Telegraph, 25 October 2021

The greatest irony of the climate debate is that those who would normally describe themselves as liberals – and thus believers in pluralism – have casually parked that core virtue in favour of net zero fealty. This new religion of environmentalism has led to the dismissal of any rational questioning, with the individual accused of being a climate change apostate.

I can almost see the Crusader cry of ‘Deus Vult,’ being screamed at anyone concerned about the cost of and even the pace or direction of change.

The normal interrogative process of accountable democracy has been turned on its head. Instead of robust interrogation, everyone is presented with a fait accompli. The roots of this can be traced to a meeting of key scientists, including the IPCC’s first chair, held thirty years ago where they agreed that traditional cost-benefit analysis should be abandoned in the climate arena as the risk it ran was that the public might baulk at the costs, when set against the scale and nature of the risk. That principle has prevailed, as across the free world democratic debate has been replaced by a new project fear.

Even when a watered-down Treasury report hinted strongly at serious costs as a result of our net zero policy (with significant implications for the UK’s fiscal position), it was ignored. Just take the lost fuel duty of £37bn alone for the next three decades – it ought to sound alarm bells everywhere, but is instead hardly discussed. There is little talk, too, of the cost of upgrading the electricity grid to cope with the huge extra demand for non-fossil fuel energy, estimated to be between £250bn and £300bn.

It is unthinkable that governments in the free world would embark on such huge changes without properly debating the scale of the challenge, how much it will cost and, most importantly, where that burden will fall. Perhaps that’s because it is becoming increasingly clear that such a cost will be paid disproportionately by the lowest earners. Asking these questions is not climate denial – no matter the accusations of zero covid zealots whose techniques increasingly resemble those of totalitarian governments.

We have seen this before. When a climate report emerged in the 1990s which said the world could suffer mass starvation within four decades, anyone questioning it was ostracised. Yet in the intervening years, undernourishment in developing countries has nearly halved, from 23.3 per cent in 1991 to 12.9 per cent in 2015. In 2013, the IPCC claimed that the extreme climate scenario was most likely – from which so many of the doom-laden scenarios have since sprung – yet their recent report has belatedly revised that opinion, considering the extreme outcome to be of low likelihood.

As Allister Health wrote in The Telegraph, there is a case to be made that if the political elite refuse to engage, a referendum on net zero might be necessary. Whether you agree with him or not, ignoring critical questions and silencing debate on an issue of such consequence will almost certainly ensure that the people react against the politicians.

There is a more potent question to ask, though, about the impact on our geopolitical position. Totalitarian states who have spurned arbitrary Western targets for net zero, and whose leaders refuse to attend COP26, are set to gain from the free world’s strategy. We in the west are already far too reliant on China for batteries, electric vehicles, computers, solar arrays and wind turbines, produced using huge amounts of fossil fuels.

The effect of our quasi-religious commitment to net zero could well be to push power East, into the hands of Beijing, which continues to pollute, opening coal mines and power stations, whilst threatening its neighbours. It is sadly a gift to Xi Jinping that will just keep giving.

see also Gwythian Prins: The Worm in the Rose – New paper warns of national security threat of unilateral decarbonisation

10) Energy crisis divides European nations before emergency meeting
Bloomberg, 25 October 2021

European Union energy ministers are set for another spat over how to cushion consumers and companies from soaring power and natural gas prices, with political and legal constraints leaving little room for immediate action.

At an emergency meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, the ministers will discuss how the EU could complement measures already taken by member states and what could be done in the medium term to prevent future price shocks.

Several countries are calling for the EU to come up with new intervention tools, but a group of nations including Austria, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands are poised to argue that the hike is temporary and should not lead to hasty changes to the bloc’s energy laws and its ambitious climate reforms, according to a new joint statement.

“As the price spikes have global drivers, we should be very careful before interfering in the design of internal energy markets,” the countries, which also include Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Latvia, said in the document shared with other governments before the ministerial meeting.

The unprecedented energy crisis has become one of the hottest issues as the 27-nation bloc heads into the winter season, with households facing double-digit increases in electricity bills and some industrial giants curtailing production.

Tuesday’s gathering follows a discussion last week about the crisis at a summit with EU leaders, who brushed off calls by some countries for quick fixes to the bloc’s laws and the Green Deal strategy to make the economy sustainable.

Most countries have already cut taxes or approved subsidies to help households and companies, and there are few remaining tools that are technically possible and politically palatable.

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11) And finally: Boris Johnson jokes about ‘feeding humans to animals’  to horrified children
Daily Mail, 25 October 2021

Boris Johnson joked to children that humans could be fed to animals to help the planet today.

The PM made the quip as he faced a grilling from youngsters about his environmental plans in the £2.6million Downing Street briefing room.

Facing a crowd of youngsters he made the lighthearted jest in relation to address the imbalance in nature, where humans and domesticated animals make up the vast majority of mammals on the planet.

In a more serious note he also admitted he was worried that the UN Cop26 climate conference will be a failure.

The Prime Minister will welcome world leaders to Glasgow for the summit but said it was ‘touch and go’ whether key goals would be met.

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